DECATUR — Spring is a season of new beginnings — and that's especially true for the Decatur Park District.
"We've had a long winter," said Executive Director Bill Clevenger. "We're going to come directly out of our winter activities at full speed ahead and go into the spring."
The district, in addition to operating parks, offers year-round athletic, artistic and recreational events and programs that Clevenger said provide a "unique way to experience" the community.
"Let's just hope for great weather," he said of the spring season.
Here's a look at key developments:
Overlook Adventure mini golf, ropes course and batting cages
Located on Decatur's east side, the Overlook Adventure Park reopens to the public on March 30. Complete with a mini golf course, a high ropes climbing course and batting cages, the Nelson Park facility has something for everyone to enjoy, according to Jamie Gower.
"That's the fun part about that one location," said Gower, the district's director of recreation and facilities. "It's pretty much a one-stop shop for everybody."
All three of the park's amenities will open at the same time, which Gower said didn't happen last year because work still needed to be done on the batting cages. The facility will operate on its spring schedule until April 29, meaning until then, the hours are 4 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays, 4 to 10 p.m. on Fridays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays.
Admission varies depending on age and the amenities. Gower said patrons can buy bundled passes of their choice to get the most out of their experience at a good value. He said the park will also offer weekly specials on Thursdays, where two golfers can play for the price of one, and family specials on Sundays where four golfers play of $20.
Haley Huddleston, who has operated Decatur's Mister Softee ice cream truck since 2013 with her mother, Terri Chance, said the store's entire menu should be available on opening day. Ice cream, slushies and soft drinks are the core items for sale, she said, and several other goodies that aren't available on the truck will be sold at the store.
"Everything is on track," Huddleston said. "We've spent the last couple of months of winter working to make it look like the ice cream truck. We just didn't want to take over Ted's Taters and keep the same decor inside."
Kendall Peterson, the owner of Ted's Taters and CherryBerry, cited health reasons for closing both of the restaurants located near the multi-million dollar adventure park. Park district officials have said they are seeking a new occupant for the former CherryBerry location as well.
Huddleston doesn't want to spoil too many of the surprises in store at the Mister Softee location, but she said people should expect prices similar to those on the truck. The least expensive item on the menu is $2, she said, while the most expensive is around $6 or $7.
The store will operate at the same hours as the Adventure Park until April 29, Huddleston said. A grand opening celebration with the Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce is expected to take place in either late April or early May, she said.
"The excitement is there, and that helps us stay motivated," Huddleston said. "We just want to make people happy and serve ice cream, and that's what we're going to do."
The egg hunt is free and geared toward children 10 and under, while adults and children can join the breakfast, which showcases the zoo's trio of wolves — Tilly, Koda and Niko. Admission for the event is $15 per person, and attendees must register by calling the zoo at (217) 421-7435.
When the zoo opens, Director Ken Frye said people can expect to see some new additions to its large family of animals. Two currently unnamed goats were born at the zoo on Wednesday, he said, and a pair of wallabies can be spotted hopping around with joeys in their pouches.
Other changes include a reworking of the main entrance deck and walkway, so that traffic in and out of the zoo can move more freely. "There's a lot of stroller pausing at this point, and waiting for someone else to come through," Frye said.
He hopes the deck and a remodel of the sidewalk near the zoo's parking lot will be completed by opening day. Elsewhere on the grounds, shades have been installed over some of the animals' habitats for hotter days, and minor upgrades were made to the zoo's herpaquarium that houses a variety of reptiles.
As the zoo looks toward another 50 years, Frye said his staff will continue looking for ways to share their love of animals and wildlife conservation with the community.
"We also want to be a fun place for families to come to," he said. "We want to provide a positive family outing where people can enjoy nature, and learn ways to help your world."
School's Out Day Camps
Children ages 5-14 can spend days away from school with the Decatur Indoor Sports Center staff during its series of School's Out Day Camps. Attendees will play supervised games with each other and will also be taken on field trips to rock walls, bounce houses and the Overlook Adventure mini golf course.
"We keep our campers very busy throughout the day," said Danita Roseman, the DISC's recreations supervisor. "It's a very hands-on, active camp, and it's also a great way to allow kids in the schools a chance to get to build relationships and friendships with each other."
The next day camp is scheduled for March 30 and will feature a trip to see the movie "Sherlock Gnomes." Sessions cost $40 per day and run from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Prices are discounted to $35 for Decatur residents and a 15 percent discount is applied for each registered sibling.
Roseman said people should contact her at (217) 429-3472 for more information on registration and scheduling.